COVID-19: Ontario volleys vaccine supply dispute back at Ottawa mayor

Ottawa's mayor and Ontario's Ministry of Health appear to be at odds over whether the city is receiving its fair share of COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ontario’s Ministry of Health is firing back at Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s claims that the city isn’t receiving its fair share of COVID-19 vaccines.

Watson wrote to Ontario Premier Doug Ford last week to ask for a “strategic allocation” of 40,000 vaccine doses to meet the demand for shots in Ottawa, criticizing the provincial government’s lowering of the age band for accelerated second doses without increasing the flow of vaccines into all public health units.

But a spokesperson for the health minister sent a statement to media Tuesday evening stating that Ottawa has received an above per-capita distribution of vaccine doses since the start of the provincial rollout, adding that the nation’s capital is still sitting on thousands of unused doses.

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OPH had 20,388 Pfizer doses and 3,180 Moderna doses on hand at the end of the day on Sunday, the spokesperson said. On Monday, the city received delivery of 53,280 Pfizer doses.

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The spokesperson said that Ottawa pharmacies are receiving 13,000 Pfizer doses and 8,700 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses this week in addition to the regular shipments for community clinics.

Since the start of May, the city has received 37,760 doses “over and above” the per capita distribution across the province, the spokesperson claimed.

Read more: More than 100K Ottawa residents have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses

“While we understand that Mayor Watson has asked for more vaccines, Ottawa is receiving more doses per capita than several other public health units and has not utilized the allocation they currently have,” the statement read.

Watson shot back quickly on Twitter on Tuesday night, saying the province “admitted” to him in a letter last week that Ottawa was not getting its per-capita share.

He also suggested that Ford told him the premier would “go to bat” for Ottawa to get the city the extra 40,000 doses.

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Ottawa health officials have also pushed back against the idea that they’re sitting on vaccines, as was also suggested in a media report last week.

The head of Ottawa’s vaccine task force clarified in a memo to city council last week that it’s standard practice to keep a two-day supply of doses in reserve as a buffer for the next 48 hours of scheduled vaccine appointments. Doing so prevents the city from cancelling residents’ appointments should the province be delayed one or two days in dose shipments.

Ottawa has been vaccinating residents at an average pace of 10,000 to 13,000 doses per day in recent weeks.

The city announced last week it was receiving an additional shipment of 5,000 Pfizer doses and moved to boost the number of available appointments at a community clinic over this past weekend.

The Ministry of Health spokesperson said the province will continue to work with Ottawa Public Health to make sure every resident who wants a vaccine can get one.

“We look forward to reviewing Mayor Watson’s plan, along with any plan we receive from other public health units,” the statement read.


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